What does it mean to be an “aromantic,” and how do you know if you are?
It’s not a term that many people will be familiar with, but as we feel more emboldened to step back from the traditional expectations of marriage and relationships, we can begin to understand that personal preference when it comes to someone’s love life can come in all shapes and sizes.
Being an aromantic isn’t something you can just be or not be. Like a lot of things, you can relate to it in some ways and not others, or have a tendency to be more aromantic compared to someone else.
With many people still not sure what the term means, it can become even more confusing to know if you identify in this way or if something else is influencing you to feel as you do.
If you think you could be aromantic, but you can’t tell for sure, keep reading. The information below may shed some light on whether you fall on the aromantic spectrum.
What does it mean to be aromantic?
There’s no rulebook to check if you’re aromantic or not. Like almost anything, there are varying degrees of how aromantic a person is, and how one person might react to a situation could be much more extreme than another.
Each person’s experience may be unique, like anything in life, but there are some things that aromantics can have in common.
As a general rule, if you’re an aromantic, romantic connections just aren’t something you look for or feel as though you’re missing from your life.
Aromantic quite literally stands for the absence of romance. As difficult as it might be for some people to understand how a person can live without romance in their lives, an aromantic person can’t understand why anyone would want a romantic relationship.
An aromantic person is usually not interested or motivated by romance and finds it hard to appreciate or understand when someone is trying to be romantic toward them. Romantic gestures and emotions don’t resonate with them in the same way as other people, and it’s not something they think about or can appreciate.
For an aromantic person, romance doesn’t have to factor in sex or even a relationship. That’s not to say that someone who feels this way can’t have a happy and fulfilling relationship or sex life. An aromantic approaches relationships by following their head rather than their heart, and they are much more likely to look for a compatible companion to share their future with as opposed to a soulmate.
Aromantics don’t see love in the same way as society portrays it. They don’t relate to the version of love shown to us through rom-coms, romance novels, magazines, and the media. Love, for an aromantic, isn’t shown on Valentine’s Day or by searching for their other half.
Like asexual people, an aromantic person can be perfectly happy on their own and most likely won’t have experienced crushes or whirlwind relationships like other people have.
But being aromantic isn’t as obvious as ticking off a checklist for all these different feelings. You might agree with some of these traits but not be certain about others. You may still have questions if you’re not sure how much of this applies to you. To understand whether you’re on the aromantic spectrum, keep reading to help you decide for sure.
How do you feel about being in a relationship?
Being aromantic doesn’t have to mean that you want to be on your own.
Just because you aren’t naturally attracted to romance or find it easy—or necessary—to be romantic, it doesn’t mean you can’t have a fulfilling relationship.
If you’ve been in relationships before, think about what your motivation was for staying in them. Was it having a partner and their companionship to share activities with that you enjoyed?
Did you like having someone who shared the same interests? Was your relationship mostly physical? Or do you like the idea of having a family one day and you wanted to try and build that unit with someone?
All these motivations are still valid reasons to be in a relationship with someone, and they can be felt even if you are aromantic.
Just because you aren’t drawn in by the romantic notion of a relationship, doesn’t mean you can’t have a happy one, as long as your partner is not expecting more from you emotionally than you’re able to give.
Considering this from an alternative point of view, if you haven’t been in a relationship yet, or can’t seem to make one last, it doesn’t have to be taken as a sign that you are aromantic.
If the idea of committing to someone scares you and is stopping you from being in a relationship, it’s possible that you have some trust issues. It could also be a sign that you just haven’t found the right person.
When you do meet the right person that you want to be with, you might surprise yourself and enjoy the romantic side of this new relationship and realize that it was more about waiting to meet the right person rather than a sign that you are romantically repelled.
You might be purposefully not getting into a relationship and enjoying your single life instead. Again, this doesn’t have to be a sign that you’re aromantic. In fact, you might be incredibly romantic and excel at flirting and picking up partners when you want them. The excitement—and in some cases, the thrill of the chase—is what intrigues you, but you’re not so much attracted to the idea of committing to just one person and the everyday monotony of a relationship.
Understanding if your approach to relationships is a sign of your being aromantic is much more complicated than whether or not you’re in a relationship.
You can be single but very much the romantic type, and you can be a practically minded aromantic in a lasting relationship. It’s the way that you approach the idea of a relationship and how you feel once you’re in one that can help you understand yourself better. It’s about whether romance is a factor in drawing you into a relationship and getting close to someone or whether that doesn’t seem to matter to you at all.
Do you think you’ve ever been in love?
Aromantic doesn’t have to mean cold or unfeeling.
There’s no prescribed way for people to show that they care for each other, we’re just told through countless love stories in the media, books, and films, that love should be shown in a certain way; most often through romantic gestures, presents, and expressing feelings in a grand fashion.
If you don’t subscribe to the mushy gestures, or if you struggle to say “I love you,” does that make you an aromantic? Possibly. But does it mean you can’t care for people? No.
An aromantic person can feel deeply, they just might be less obvious about how they show the way they feel.
A romantic person might make big gestures, be very vocal and physical with their affection, and get joy out of wooing the person they love. At the other end of the spectrum, an aromantic person might care about someone just as much but not feel the need to show it or respond to such obvious methods of expressing their affection.
Everyone has their own love language, and for one person, the way they show how they feel about their partner could be entirely different to someone else. For an aromantic person, the idea of being traditionally “romantic” may not factor for them in their approach to a partner, but it doesn’t have to mean that they don’t care.
They can be attracted to a person or the idea of being together with someone, they’ll just never be prince charming who can sweep you off your feet.
Think about a time when you’ve felt as though you could be in love. If you can remember feeling a sense of attraction because you valued and respected this person, but it didn’t feel the same as the romantic relationships you often see portrayed in the media, then you might take this as a sign of being on the aromantic spectrum. But if you don’t feel put off by the idea of a loving, affectionate relationship, then maybe you just haven’t found the right person yet.
Do you need a relationship to feel fulfilled?
If you’re in a relationship, how romantically fulfilled do you feel right now? Is this something you’ve even ever considered before?
What are you grateful for when you think about your relationship? If it’s never been based on anything but a mutual love that is bedded in finding someone appropriate to share your life with, rather than being swept up in a romance with each other, then you might just be an aromantic in hiding.
The difference between an aromantic in a relationship and anyone else is that they can feel fulfilled, enjoying the idea that they’ve found someone compatible that they can live happily alongside, but they aren’t concerned about feeling emotionally connected and finding “the one.”
Equally, if you are single, how do you feel about it? If you are an aromantic, you may prefer your own company and not feel the societal pressure to find a partner or share your life. It’s not to say that you wouldn’t consider a relationship if the chance came along, just that you are as fulfilled being single as you are when you’re in a relationship.
If you don’t feel pressure from the social norm of dating or chatting up a partner and instead tend to prefer your own company, then it’s a good sign that you’re aromantic.
You can be either: part of a relationship that fulfills you in a number of ways, just not from a romantic perspective, or a confirmed singleton, perfectly fulfilled making your way through life by your own rules.
As much as you can enjoy your own company, deep down, do you know that something is missing? And is that something a loving and affectionate partner?
Do you struggle to relate to what a relationship looks like for everyone else?
How do you feel about rom-coms or love stories in fiction and film? Have you always found it difficult to see the appeal of romance? Do you struggle to fantasize about your knight in shining armor when everyone else around you seems to be obsessed by the idea?
Did you ever feel swept up by the romance in something you saw, or have you always felt a disconnect?
It would be normal—if you’re in some way aromantic—to feel almost put off by public displays of romance and affection and the traditional way relationships are portrayed.
Being aromantic isn’t a choice; it’s a sexual preference and a different way of approaching the whole concept of a relationship.
If you’ve never been able to feel or understand big displays of love and romantic gestures in the media, then you’re most likely aromantic in your own way.
It’s not the same as being embarrassed or finding displays of affection cringey. An aromantic person doesn’t feel the pressure to subscribe to the social expectation of living out their love life in the same way as everyone else.
They are the people who live by their own rules when it comes to finding someone to be with. Disney films and rom-coms aren’t the standards they hold themselves to in their love life, because romance is not an element they need or want.
How empathetic are you?
There could be several reasons why you connect to your emotions – or those of others – less than other people. Being shut off from your own emotions, or finding it difficult to understand someone else’s when it comes to a relationship, isn’t a foolproof way of knowing if you’re aromantic or not, but the way you relate to people can give you a good indication.
You may have been brought up to suppress your emotions or avoid making any type of emotional display in public. This sort of behavior is learned and not necessarily an indication that you’re naturally aromantic. It takes time to trust someone, and eventually you will feel comfortable opening up and being vulnerable.
Suppressing your emotions could also be a method of self-preservation you’ve developed after facing trauma in your life. You’re unable to process your own emotions and have taught yourself to avoid situations when other people freely show theirs; especially in a romantic way where they’re trying to foster a connection. This, again, doesn’t have to be a sign that you’re aromantic, just that you’re hiding from emotional situations because you are processing.
If you genuinely find it hard to understand people’s emotions toward relationships and avoid other’s feelings, then this is more likely a sign that you could be a true aromantic.
You may not like it when people offer you romantic gestures because you get easily embarrassed or uncomfortable in these types of situations. But to understand if you’re aromantic, you should think about how relevant emotion is to your life, particularly when it comes to connecting with a partner.
If you feel as though you aren’t interested in someone else’s feelings, but still care about them, or don’t need to understand a person emotionally to feel connected enough to make a relationship work, then it’s more than likely you’re an aromantic. Being aromantic isn’t about running away from strong emotions, it’s about being able to live without them and not feel their absence at all.
How do you feel about sex?
To be an aromantic person doesn’t mean you’re repelled by anything and everything to do with relationships. You can still have a healthy sex life.
For some people, sex is a manifestation of their love for each other. Having sex is about exploring the connection they have romantically, using it as a physical affirmation of their emotional connection and bonding on a deeper level. For other people, they might just see sex as a way to have a good time and feel great.
If, in your mind, there is a distinction between sex, love, and romance, then you could be more aromantic than you think. For aromantics, sex is just sex; it’s not linked with romance in their mind in the same way as it is for other people. They can make a clear distinction between having sex and having a relationship.
Just because you’re not in a relationship with someone when you have sex—or you have the odd one night stand—it doesn’t mean you’re an aromantic. Sex can mean different things to different people at different times. Right now, you might be enjoying the single life, or you haven’t met the right person and are expanding your horizons physically.
For someone who is aromantic, it doesn’t matter how long they’re with someone, the sex stays the same for them. It’s never about romance and it’s not dependent on any relationship they share.
It’s not a choice to live this way for them. Sex is just sex and always will be, no matter who it’s with, and romance and emotion play no part in it.
How do you approach finding a partner?
For someone who is aromantic, when it comes to choosing a partner, romance just isn’t considered part of the equation.
You’re unlikely to have grown up thinking about finding “the one,” and you didn’t fall for people or experience crushes on those you found attractive.
Finding a partner isn’t the journey for you that you see other people dream about, it’s based on compatibility, not emotion, and is more platonic than it is romantic.
We know that just by being aromantic, it doesn’t mean that you necessarily have no interest in relationships. But the way you approach finding a partner is much less about following your heart than following your head.
Your criteria for a partner isn’t to be swept off your feet, but to find someone who fulfills all your needs. The love you have for them isn’t a big, all-consuming romantic love, but one of a deep-rooted respect that means you enjoy having them in your life.
If this is sounding like you, or even if you haven’t found a partner yet but you can relate to it, then you might be more aromantic than you think.
Are you often accused of giving mixed signals?
One of the problems with being an aromantic person is the lack of understanding you get from other people.
For people who do believe in romance and need those displays of affection in their relationship, being with an aromantic person can be hard for them to comprehend.
If you’re aromantic and in a relationship, your partner might accuse you of giving off mixed signals, because, as much as they know you care for them, you don’t naturally show the affection and romantic gestures that they have learned to expect.
If your partner measures your love by the way you show them affection, then as an aromantic person, you’re going to keep letting them down. It’s not even that you don’t want to make them happy, it’s just that you don’t see the need or understand how to make them happy in the traditional, romantic way.
If they try to be romantic toward you, not being attracted to that kind of behavior could mean that it has the opposite effect and creates distance between you rather than bringing you closer because it’s not something you enjoy.
Acting differently from the norm can be hard for people to understand, and not everyone will. But being aromantic is an identity and an orientation you have little to no control over, just like other sexual preferences. So if you aren’t with someone who takes the time to understand you, then they’re not the right person to be with.
How do you feel when someone is romantic toward you?
What is your first, gut reaction when someone tries to do something romantic for you?
Moving past the shock, if that’s one of your emotions, how do you feel once you’ve taken everything in and realize the gesture this person is trying to make?
As an aromantic person, you might be feeling confused, awkward, uninterested, or even a little turned off. Because these types of gestures aren’t something you’re interested in doing or having done to you, it won’t have a positive impact on how you feel.
Some people could find big romantic gestures embarrassing, but it doesn’t have to mean they’re aromantic. They still subscribe to the concept of romance; it may just have been the wrong gesture from the wrong person which caused them to react this way. When it comes down to it, if someone they really liked did something romantic, they’d probably feel differently.
For aromantic people, it doesn’t matter the person, the gesture, the expense, or the timing, a display of romance just isn’t something they can relate to or feel interested in no matter what.
Do you think you’re asexual?
If you’re wondering whether you’re asexual and if that’s why you don’t have the “normal” feelings you see other people experience, then think about how you feel about sex and relationships.
In a broad sense, an asexual person has no desire whatsoever to be with someone. They will have little to no attraction to other people and are much more content with being on their own. The idea of being in a relationship with someone is unfathomable because, for them, there is no interest in getting into one.
As an aromantic, you can still want to be with someone, you’re just attracted to them in a less emotional, more platonic way.
You can enjoy sex and be attracted by the idea of it, you just don’t develop any romantic feelings alongside it.
You can be happy in a relationship, you just don’t think of it in a sentimental way. Instead, it’s about enjoying a companionship with someone you like, building a home, and feeling content.
There are spectrums for both asexual and aromantic feelings, with some people feeling much closer to one end of the extreme than another. As an aromantic, if you were to get into a relationship, it might not be the type people understand, but you can feel fulfilled in it. As an asexual, however, your preferred choice is to be on your own indefinitely.
There’s no simple way to test if you’re aromantic or not. The influences you’ve had growing up can play a big part in how you perceive relationships and connect with your feelings.
To be aromantic in its most basic form is to be someone who is without romance in their lives, not by choice, not with sadness or regret, but in the way that romance just isn’t something you need, want, or can relate to. You don’t have romantic feelings, you never have, and you aren’t worried about developing them in your future.
Even if people find it hard to understand how you see life, if you truly do think you are an aromantic person, you shouldn’t feel that you are lacking. To be aromantic is a sexual orientation, and not one you consciously choose. You should be taken seriously even if you experience life differently than others.
To be aromantic doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy life, or even a relationship, it just means that you approach the world differently to the majority, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
You may also like:
- Is True Love A Choice Or A Feeling?
- Single By Choice: The Perks And The Challenges Of Staying Single
- “I Can’t Fall In Love” (10 Reasons Why)
- 5 Reasons To Rethink Your Belief That Love Doesn’t Exist